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October 15, 2015

Bryce Alford

Steve Alford

San Francisco, California

STEVE ALFORD: Well, we're excited to be here. Obviously 100 years of a great basketball conference and 50 years at Pauley Pavilion, the most historic building in college basketball. So it's kind of a neat year for UCLA to be celebrating 100 and then 50 years of a very special building for us.
So we're excited about the season, and things have gone pretty well. Like a lot of coaches, you love your team probably this time of year, and I'm no different. Very, very excited about this team, and we've got some depth for the first time in three years, so hopefully we can stay healthy and keep it moving forward.

Q. Steve, losing Norman, how do you replace not necessarily his production on the court but more of his emotional presence in the locker room?
STEVE ALFORD: And that's going to be one of our questions that we have to get answered because Norman, you look at what he did freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, statistically he developed very nicely, but some of the intangibles you didn't see, his leadership ability, his personality, growing from a young man to a man. He just‑‑ the development was right there for us every year, and in my two years with him, I could see that.
Last year he was a great leader for us. He was our leading scorer. He was a go‑to guy for us.
And then having a guy like Kevon, losing a guy like Kevon, who was a double‑double guy for us. In year one we had Kyle Anderson as a double‑double guy. Year two we had Kevon Looney. And now we go into year three, the question mark of who's going to be the leader, I think Bryce is ready for that role of being‑‑ stepping up as leader. He's kind of a born leader. He understands it.
Isaac now has a year under his belt. And Tony has got to be that next line of bigs that can be a double‑double guy, and if you look at Tony's stats, they kind of mirror the development of what Norman has had in his four‑year career. Tony is kind of the next guy in line. Tony has got a tremendous personality to help with leadership, as well.
I think the combination of our three guys, Bryce and Isaac and Tony, have got to do a very good job with the leadership that Norman left us with.

Q. You got a lot out of Tony in the NCAA Tournament. Seemed like he was kind of hitting his ceiling. But inconsistent throughout the year. What do you have to do to make sure that he shows up consistently this year?
STEVE ALFORD: Year one with us, his sophomore year, he was a backup to the Wear twins and we kind of played two forwards. He was the only really true center we had.
And then last year he and Tommy Welsh, who's had a great summer, as well, those kind of mirrored each other. I think this year we can play them together, we can play them opposite one another. There's a lot of different things.
But now he is, he's 22 years of age, grown man, he's gone into his fourth year, over 100 college basketball games, so now that's what ‑‑ the maturation process has to happen, and if it does happen, then it makes us a totally different team and a much better team.
It's not throwing pressure at Tony. Bryce has to help Tony, and Isaac Hamilton has to help Tony. Tony has to help the guards. But we've got some help, where Tony has been our only guy in practice or Bryce and Isaac had been our only guys in practice. We've had to let them sit out practice.
Now at least where in a season to where they some subs in practice because of some depth, so I think we can continue to improve and yet not get beat up and more down like we have the tendency to do.
But a credit to Tony is that he was playing very well. He had some back spasms, missed our Oregon trip. We missed both Oregon trip he missed, came back and started playing well again and then played well in March. So he's just got to carry that forward.
But any time you're a senior, just like Norman, you'd probably say the same thing about Norman's first three years of there was some inconsistencies there. There were some inconsistencies in shooting or scoring. But in his senior year he was very consistent.
And when you have that urgency of this is my last deal, hopefully that propels you to have a very good year, and we'd like to see that out of Tony. He's ready for it. Now he's just got to go out and do it.

Q. How difficult has the general manager and roster composition aspect of the job become, especially at a place like UCLA where you get great players but they might leave earlier than you anticipate?
STEVE ALFORD: Well, I haven't had to deal with that much. I've been very blessed and fortunate with the stops I've had, Manchester College, Missouri State, Iowa, New Mexico, and Tony Snell was going to be my really first that left early, and now we've had ‑‑ not leaving early, but we've had seven guys go to the NBA in two years. Four of those guys have left early.
It is a different dynamic that you're juggling in recruiting, and we've been very fortunate that things have worked out well.
Southern California area has been very fruitful of late, and that's helping us. The '15 class that we just brought in is tremendous. You look at Alex Olesinski, at 6'10", can really shoot the basketball, and Aaron Holiday and Prince Ali have been tremendous, and are going to be great guards in our backcourt, mirroring Alex and Bryce. Ike, coming out of junior college, a qualifier Algeria college, gives us some looks, just like coming Tony Parker had a big presence inside. Joneh Bolden, who's a new player, sat out last year and 6'9" swing guy.
Those guys fill in and then a '16 class that's nearly done, that could potentially be top five in the country and our '17 class is moving very, very nice, as well.
We got a new practice facility we're moving into in 2017. That's going to bolster things. We've got some momentum, we just want to get that momentum going in the right way. But managing your roster does get tricky when, one, you do have guys leaving; two, you never really know at the start of the year who that might be. Some of them are clear‑cut. Kyle Anderson told me when I got the job, this is it, Coach, I'm here one year.
So I guess I'd rather have that than the guessing game, but then there are players who are going to end up having some breakout years that end up going. I will tell you this, statistically, if you look at it, at UCLA and I don't understand the dynamic maybe, but it's not like you have to put up huge numbers to be able to be drafted in the first round or the second round even, coming out of UCLA. Zach LaVine was nine points, a couple assists a game, and he's a lottery pick. You don't have to be somebody that scores 15, 20 points to have that opportunity coming out of UCLA and Los Angeles.
That's a dynamic, too, that you've got to look at from a coaching standpoint because sometimes you can see, okay, this guy is potentially going to be a double‑double guy or he could average 18, 20 points and we've got to think about replacing this guy. At UCLA, you know, we've got Aaron Holiday, who I think is going to be special. His brother averaged eight points a game, and a year later he's an NBA All‑Star. That doesn't happen a lot of places, but it does at UCLA.

Q. Coach, this is for your son. Bryce, two‑pronged question. Tell us about your dad as coach, and then tell us about the difference with him being a coach on the floor at UCLA and then a dad at home.
BRYCE ALFORD: Well, he's always done a really good job of that, of separating it. I know growing up, I've always played basketball, I've always had that engrained in me and he's always been at all of my games and that, but he takes the time‑out to be the dad and to kind of get basketball out of the way, and that's always something that we cherished to have because we love the game of basketball. And it's something that we talk about every single day.
There's not a whole lot that we do that doesn't involve basketball, but we try to separate it sometimes and just be kind of a father‑son and have those moments, as well.

Q. Considering the way the game went last year with Kentucky, do you circle that on the calendar any more than you normally would?
STEVE ALFORD: I'd like to delete it. I'd like to delete it from the calendar. That was obviously a tough game for us. Really not a game, it was a tough first half. Very tough first half. I had never experienced any of that, as a coach or as a player.
But really that game had an awful lot to do, I think, with our success later in the season in February and March, because it wasn't just Kentucky, we lost five games in a row in December and early January. We lost our first two conference games at Colorado and at Utah to start 0‑2. And then to break it, we beat Stanford in one or two overtimes at home, to break the streak.
I just give the players an awful lot of credit because there are a lot of teams and a lot of players, when you go through‑‑ it was almost a month. It was almost four weeks of losing, let alone doing that at UCLA, there were a lot of players that would just tank it, and our guys didn't do that. Our guys got stronger, they got better, they stayed together, and I give that group an awful lot of credit for doing that because they turned a negative into a very big season‑ending positive, and I think those are the experiences now going into this year that's really going to help kind of our vets coming back that can lead these younger guys, and we have these same games. We've got Kentucky at home, we've got Carolina, we have some polls coming out that have got them sharing No.1. That's just great we're playing both of them. We're playing Kentucky at home, North Carolina, Brookline. We've got Gonzaga at Gonzaga. We're in the Maui Classic, which is arguably one of the toughest fields they've had. So this is going to be a very demanding, non‑league schedule for us, but I do think if we can stay healthy, we've got a chance to grow a little bit quicker than what we did last year because we do have some depth.

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